TELFORD VICE, Perth
DALE Steyn would have left Australia on Sunday night secure in the knowledge that Kagiso Rabada has a firm grip on what needs to be done on the last day of the first test at the WACA today.
At 4.30am (SA time) on Monday morning Steyn would have been halfway on his way home to have his broken shoulder surgically repaired.
Rabada would have been marking out a run-up, ready to let fly to add to his haul of 3/49 in search of the six wickets South Africa still need to go to Hobart with a series lead.
“Dale Steyn is a massive loss to South Africa but ‘KG’ (Rabada) has done it before and he did it again,” South African bowling coach Charl Langeveldt said.
Australia would have been trying to get their minds right to resume on 169/4, a challenge not helped by the fact that they are not chasing the 539 they need to win. Not in any real sense, anyway.
Usman Khawaja stood admirably firm for his 58 not out. But his reliable support had dwindled to Mitchell Marsh, who was 15 not out, with Peter Nevill to come.
In Steyn’s absence Rabada has the canny, experienced Vernon Philander in his corner as well as debutant left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.
For the rest, step up Stephen Cook, who sent down two overs of military medium pace on Sunday, and JP Duminy, who got through eight overs of off-spin.
Dean Elgar could get a bowl today, as might Temba Bavuma.
But the buck will stop with Rabada – who, lest we forget, is still only 21 and playing in just his ninth test.
“He still has a long way to go in international cricket but he’s a quick learner, he asks a lot of questions, and he is very knowledgeable about the game,” Langeveldt said.
“I’ve said to him that your first season is the easiest. The second year is when people work you out.
“And he is the type of bowler who always wants to improve.”
How he has. Rabada took on the responsibility Steyn left him and with it he took the fight to the Aussies, dismissing Shaun Marsh, Steve Smith and Adam Voges – all to catches off the edge – and imposing himself on the scene like the stellar talent he is.
But before any of that happened Bavuma stopped the world with a piece of pure magic.
If any Australian harboured hopes of getting the home side close to what would be a world record run-chase, David Warner did.
When he drilled six fours off the first 32 balls he faced all knew he was in the mood. But the 33rd delivery bowled to Warner, by Rabada, changed all that.
Warner nudged into the covers and set off for a single, satisfied that he had put enough daylight between the ball and Bavuma, who was stationed at point.
Bavuma swooped, dived and threw all in one outrageous motion to hit the stumps as Warner grounded his bat on the crease – not over the crease, and Warner was duly run out.
Coming on top of the fine 73 Philander scored in sharing stands of 116 with Quinton de Kock, who made 64, and 72 with Maharaj to take South Africa to 540/8 before the declaration came in the fourth over after lunch, Bavuma’s brilliance seemed too good to be true.
But then came Rabada’s.